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About MIDI and sequencing

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  • MIDI
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    Introduction

    This page is about MIDI compositions, which are "real" pieces of music, written for playback with any sound card. MIDI is a standard in Windows, so any PC with a sound card can play these Midi files.

    MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a specification, which was developed in the 1980s to communicate between synthesizers. Since then MIDI has also become a standard, which allows programs to play music through the PC sound card.

    MIDI is a computer standard music format. You write compositions - musical events - in the MIDI format. The MIDI files do not contain the sounds but a description of how the music is to be played. The sounds are in your sound card. The MIDI file only contains sequencing information - which instrument it is played how and when .

    For example a MIDI sequence can describe the hit on a piano key. The MIDI sequence describes:

  • The instrument
  • The note
  • The strength of the key hit
  • How long to maintain the note
  • Etc.

    The only thing which is not covered is the sound of the instrument - that is created in the sound card, and is totally dependent on the sound card quality:

    Note level recordings

    A MIDI recording is thus a recording of music on "note level," without sound. It is played by a module, such as a sound card, which can generate the sounds of the instrument. MIDI files do not occupy much space as compared with the pure sound (WAVE files). Therefore they are often used in PCs, on Internet etc.

    You find a lot of MIDI music on the Internet. However, compared to MP3s the format is rather tame. There is rarely more than a few minutes of music in a MIDI file, and you soon get tired of the pieces, which all sound the same using the limited number of voices within your sound card.

    The advantage of MIDI is that the file format is so standardized. If you have a sound card, no matter which, it will work. Depending on the quality of your sound card, a MIDI can sound good or lousy. Cheap sound cards have a chip on them which mimics the sounds of different instruments when you play a MIDI file. Newer sound cards use a Wave table chip which contains actual samplings of the instruments. The MIDI file is still limited to the around 120 instruments on the sound card.


    MIDI interface for keyboards

    A musical keyboard can be connected to the sound card with a connector. That is called a MIDI interface. You can buy special PC musical keyboards, or you can use one of the keyboards which are available in music stores. It will work as long as the MIDI connectors match.

    You connect your DIN connector to the piano keyboard. In the other end of the cable is a DB15 connector to the sound card. Then you can play from the piano keyboard through the sound card. Of course it requires a program which can handle music, but it works.

    I have tried it myself. The Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold comes with the program Cubasis. Once I connected an old and cheap piano keyboard (with built-in rhythm box) to the sound card, and everything worked through Cubasis. The keyboard acted as a "Local Synthesizer" in the program settings.

    This keyboard is especially designed for the PC.

    Links

    Here is a link to Anselmo Salzani, who tries to create exciting music in the MIDI format. His page also includes a lot of other interesting music links: Brazilian MIDI music.

    And a Dane: Anders Kornerups MIDI music


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